Monday, May 27, 2013
The Autobiography of Dr. Annie Caroline Smith (Feb. 7, 2000 from Donnette Smith)
The Autobiography of Dr. Annie Caroline Smith (Feb. 7, 2000 from Donnette Smith)
My parents, James Smith and Sarah Jane Stephens, were married at Thaxted, Essex,
England. My mother’s father had been a Baptist minister and had died at Thaxted, and my
grandmother had never left the place. My mother’s father was a Welshman, and my mother’s
mother had been born and brought up in Wales--although she said she was NOT Welsh but ALL
English. My parents went to India in the year 1866, soon after their marriage, where my father
was going to work for the London Missionary Society, (a Roman Catholic Organization). That was
before the Suez Canal was opened, and they went in a sailing ship around the Cape of Good Hope.
The voyage took about three months. There was no refrigeration on the ships in those days and no
laundry facilities as there are today. My mother had to take enough dresses to last the voyage.
She sewed and sewed to get enough dresses to last the whole three months. When we arrived in
India, she had one clean dress left. Mother was so tiny, and young looking, with lovely golden
curls. Once on the boat, Father walked away from her for a few minutes and someone said, “Your
pa went that way.” They arrived at Bombay in India and left the ship there.
There was no railway to their destination then, and I think they must have gone down the
west coast of India in some small ship, for they had to travel to Belgaum, their destination.
Finally up a range of hills called the West-Ghauls, my mother was carried in some kind of a
litter. My father, perhaps rode, or walked. I never heard him say. They rose up from sea level,
up a range of hills to about 2000 feet or so above to a place called Belgaum, which was the civil
head-quarters of a district and also Belgaum was a Military station. So there were other
Europeans there as well as the missionaries stationed there. We lived in a mission house inside
an old fort. There were two entrances to the fort. The one we generally used and another one, the
bigger gate, which had some old ruins beside it. That one we didn’t generally use. We didn’t see
the military people much, They were in a big enclosure. But we used to hear the bugle calls and
we knew all the bugle calls. The whole regiment wasn’t there. There’d be one company. The
Regiment lived about two miles up. There was always the battery of Artillery. Mostly they were
English. And they would be paraded to the Anglican Church (Episcopalian). But once there was a
Scottish regiment and they were mostly Presbyterian, and m father and the other missionary
acted as chaplains, and they had the use of the Anglican Church while the regiment was there.
Another time we had a Wesleyan regiment. But mostly they were Anglican regiments. Our
mission had a small church and any who were not Episcopalian, who were Wesleyans or
Presbyterians or anything else, would come to our church. They wouldn’t be paraded, but they
could come. My father and his colleague always had a service on Sunday morning in English for
anyone who would like to come to it.
The Society generally had two missionaries stationed there. One in charge of the church
there, and of work outside in the smaller towns and villages round about, and the other as Head
Master of a school for Indian boys. My father’s special work was with the school for boys. But
first of all, he had to get to work and study the language, in which he would have to have
examinations. The language he studied was called Canarese. It is one of a group known as
Dravidian languages. Belgaum is on the border line where two languages meet. In the town itself,
Maharathi, a quite different language was also spoken, and also to the west and north. Maharathi
is one of the Indo-European languages. My mother learned Canarese as well as my father--and
some years later she learned maharathi also, as she found she needed it in a school she started
for girls, and when she visited women in the town. Of course, my father had at times to help
with holding church services and other things. Also he used to give out medicines like quinine
for malaria, and other simple drugs for other ailments. He had had some special instruction
such lines before he went to India.
The school was known as the London Mission High School. Bible lessons were given daily
as well as ordinary school subjects and English was taught in each class. Those who passed the
final exams could go on to the University if they wished or they could get into various
My mother was always so sweet and so loving and everyone took to her. I don’t think
anyone was afraid of my mother. I remember when we were kids, my father could make us
afraid. He was very kind. But we had a holy respect for him. If he said, “No,” we never dared do
He was very fond of gardening. We had a big garden and he took a lot of trouble with it. He
tried to grow apples. He used to get apple trees, young, small apple trees from England, but it
was much too hot for apples. One year we had a little apple tree about three feet high and it set
one or two little apples. You know how children are. Oh, that little apple looked so pretty, and I
put my finger on it and it fell off. Oh, wasn’t I frightened. I remember going to my father and I
said, “I only just put my finger on it and it fell off.” I was afraid I was going to get a--not a
licking, her never whipped us--but I thought I was going to get a real scolding, or put in the
corner or something bad. But he said, “All right, you couldn’t help it. It was too ripe. It
wouldn’t have fallen if it hadn’t been too ripe.” But he couldn’t grow apples. It was too hot. The
weather wasn’t just right. Another thing he tried to grow was grapes. But unfortunately, the
heavy rains came just as the grapes should be ripening. If we had had another fortnight to three
weeks they could have ripened maybe. But the rains came just as they were to ripen. So he had to
give up on the apples and grapes. He did love gardening, being brought up on a farm and
He used to grow pineapples, and all sorts of vegetables. And we had trees. You wouldn’t
know them. There were guavas, loquats [Ed. Note: Loquat, an Asian evergreen tree of the rose
family often cultivated for its small yellow edible fruit used especially for preserves], and
bananas. Bananas, of course, you’d know. Not a tree. Each steam bears one bunch only, and when
one stem has a bunch and it started to turn color, we cut it down: it wouldn’t bear anymore. Then
you hang up your bananas in a dark place to ripen. Then that root would send up another sprout
the next year. It was really a gigantic grass. The loquats were yellow when they were ripe. If
you can consider a cherry being long instead of round, well, they were like an elongated cherry,
about that size. They had a seed inside it. And we used to grow cauliflower and celery and lettuce
and tomato. We grew tomatoes in the winter time. It wouldn’t be winter there, but it would be
December and January you’d be quite comfortable and cool, you know. We lived about
2000 odd high. If we’d lived at sea level we’d have been hotter. But we lived up from the
seacoast about seventy miles from the sea. So It wasn’t so hot as if we’d lived down on the plains.
In November and December and January it would be quite cool. We never needed a fire. But my
mother used to have a charcoal braiser to air the clothes. A charcoal brazier and a bamboo
basket thing over it. We wouldn’t find the charcoal brazier too much. It used to be quite nice.
Then it would begin to get hot, warm up, about April. The school holiday there was the middle of
April to the beginning of June, because in June the rains came. When the rains begin to come it
begins to get cool. Where we lived, in June the weather would be light and drizzly and small
showers and in July it came pelting down. We had a lot of thunder storms when the rains were
on the way. And after the rains went it would get muggy and hot again. But in September it would
be quite pleasant.
TO BE CONTINUED. . .
My parents had four daughters all born in India. I was the oldest, born in 1987, then
Emily Mary in 1869, Florence Jessie in 1871 and May Ethel in 1874. Our house had wide steps
in front we jumped on, when we were children, and we played with dolls when we were young,
English dolls. We didn’t have Indian dolls. The last doll I had--it had a wax face and it was
getting broken and decrepit, and my youngest sister was about eighteen months or two (years).
You know what I did with that doll one day? I got a little saucer and melted my doll’s wax face and
made little candles of it. It was wax, you see, pure wax. And that was the end. Little wax candles.
That was the last doll I ever had. We had birthday presents when we were young, but they were
never wrapped in paper or had ribbons. We celebrated Christmas, but we didn’t have a tree or
presents or Father Christmas. A friend in India who had a store gave us a few raisins or candies.
We had a nicer dinner than usual on Christmas and dressed in nice clothes. I was a grown woman
before I saw a Christmas tree.
My mother taught us our lessons until we went home to England. She didn’t do the
housework, you see. We had servants. We had a cook and a man to do the sweeping and cleaning.
They’re accustomed there to do those things. If you have children you have a woman, called an
“ayah,” to look after the children.
But in the north of India, up where I lived later, in the Punjab, the seasons were quite
different. In the wintertime, it was quite cold. People up there, just about Christmas or New
Years, they’d have to protect their tomato plants a little bit in case there would be a frost. I
heard of people who lived there long ago say how they used to get ice in the Punjab in
wintertime. They dug shallow wide beds, filled them with water, and early in the morning
before the sun was up it would be frozen. They’d go and pick up the ice and put it deep down in a
hole and cover it up. In the summer they’d get a little ice. But nowadays, of course, oh, even
before I left, people started to have refrigerators. When I was a girl, I remember in Bombay,
seeing a great big place where they used to keep ice. They used to bring the ice from Norway and
Sweden in ships, and put it in this great hole in the ground with a great big cover on it.
My father’s first furlough was in the spring of 1877. We had to go down from Belgaum
to the sea coast in vehicles drawn by two bullocks. The vehicles were something like a big box on
wheels, with seats. At night, we stopped at regular stages, where there were buildings called
“Travellers Bungalows.” It took us three or four days to reach the coast. Then we got into a
small coastal steamer which took us to Bombay. At Bombay, we went to a hotel for a day or two
and finally got onto a big steamer which brought us through the Suez Canal which was now open.
The ship took us to Liverpool. Next we went by train from Liverpool to London. I remember
being absolutely delighted with the green meadows, full of buttercups and daisies which I saw
from the carriage windows.
The missionaries had a year and a half furlough. It wouldn’t be worth while having a
shorter one, coming all the way from India. The missionaries left Indian at the beginning of the
hot season, and returned a year and a half later at the beginning of the cool season. That way they
missed two hot seasons. The men missionaries had a furlough every ten years while the women
missionaries had one every five years. In the Church of Scotland, where I worked, and most of
the other missionary societies, the women had a furlough every five years and the men six or
seven. But in the old days, in the London Missionary Society, then men were out for ten years at
a time. Well, the comings and goings are so much quicker now, I think people get the holidays a
little oftener. Perhaps they don’t have them quite so long, but they get them a little oftener.
A furlough was not all holiday. My father had to go anyplace that the London Missionary
Society sent him to, to tell about the work of the mission in India. So he was quite a lot away, and
had to live where trains were convenient. So on both his first and his second furloughs we lived
in a town called Saffron Waldon, in North Essex, about seven miles from Thaxted where my
mother’s mother and sister were living.
When my parents went back to India, Emily and Florence and I were put in a boarding
school for the daughters of missionaries. May was too young and was with my mother’s mother
and sister in Thaxted. When the Christmas holidays came and we went to Thaxted, our
grandmother and Aunt were shocked by Emily’s looks. The doctor said she must not go back. She
somehow could not stand the life of the big boarding school. So she stayed at Thaxted and went to a
small school there. May went there until she was seven or eight and then she joined Florence and
me at the boarding school. We didn’t have parties at the school. I was a boarding school, you
know, and we never had anything like that. We just had school. We were all boarders. There
were no day pupils. All our parents were abroad somewhere. Once a year, the school had our
pictures taken and sent them to our parents. And at holiday times we went to our grandparents.
At Christmas and Easter, we went to Thaxted (for three weeks each) and at the summer holiday
(six weeks) we went to Grandpa Smith’s at Wretchwick.
At the boarding school, the girls had to get up when a bell sounded. Then there was a bell
for breakfast and another bell to make their beds. Then lessons. Dinner was not fancy, but good.
Then more lessons. Sometimes they went for a walk, two by two down the street. After supper
the little girls went to bed while the big ones went into the schoolroom and the head teacher read
from a book to them before bedtime. There were no parties or dances of any kind at the school.
When I was 14 we got the news that we had a brother, James Edward. But we never saw
him. When I was 18 and Emily nearly 17, we left England in the care of another missionary and
his wife to join our parents. (The three older girls went to India soon after finishing the
boarding school.) They were to go to Madras and so we were to go to Madras also. Our ship
stopped at Columbo, in Ceylon, and there we got a letter from our father and mother saying we
would never see our little brother because he had died on Nov. 17, which was May’s birthday,
after a very sudden and short illness, said to have been diphtheria. Of course, that made a great
difference to our joy in seeing our parents and their joy in seeing us again. It was a terrible
blow to my parents. Our parents next furlough was due in 1888. That was the year I was 21.
And my father and mother and Emily and I all came back to England in the spring of 1888. We
went again to live in Saffron Walden for a year. In June 1889, my grandmother Stephens died,
and in November of that same year Grandmother Smith died. My father left England in the
autumn of 1889. When he said goodbye to his mother, she was very ill and he heard of her death
when he reached Bombay. When Florence left school, Emily and she and my mother’s sister went
to India to join my father and mother. I began studying up for my entrance exam before being
able to start the medical school.
In the spring of 1897, my father came home on his last furlough. My sister Emily had
been with my father and mother in Belgaum and she came home with them. They lived in North
London during that furlough as my Grandfather Smith had died by then and Wretchwick had, of
course, been given up, and Edith and Beatrice had gone to Salt Lake City. I was away in the
Punjab by then. My father went back to India for the last time in the autumn of 1898. A few
years later the London Missionary Society gave up their mission in Belgaum to another society,
an American one, I think, as Belgaum was so far away from all their other stations, and my
Father and Mother went to a place called Bangalore, further inland, for their last bit of time
about two or two and a half years.
Now I must go back a little and tell you about myself and my sisters. We had all moved
about a good bit. Emily had been in India with my father and mother and she came back with them
to England. Florence had gone to India, but after a year or so there she had come back to England,
and she had been in the south of France and in Switzerland. She had been in schools mostly I
think Mae did very well in school and was able to skip a grade. When she finished school, there
wasn’t anything for her to do except repeat the last grade again. The, since it would only be a
year until our parents would have another furlough, she wasn’t sent to India. She went, instead,
to the University College of Wales, in Aberystwith and took her arts course there and got her
B.A. London degree. I had been in Edinburgh, Scotland, studying medicine and had gone out to what
is now called West Punjab, Pakistan, to do medical work for the Church of Scotland.
When my father and mother went back to India in the autumn of 1898, they went back
alone. But Emily went back there the year after, and married a man called Tom Keith whom she
had met out there. He was a sergeant in the East Yorkshire Regiment and the regiment had been
just moved from Belgaum to a place not very far away to a place called Bellary. It was just about
the time of the Boor War in South Africa, and some of the prisoners of war were sent to Bellary.
Emily’s husband’s regimental duties brought him in touch with these prisoners quite a lot.
While the regiment was in Bellary, Emily’s only child, a boy, was born, but it lived only two
days. She had been having a good deal of fever (malaria) so common in India. After some time, I
do not know quite how much, the East Yorkshire regiment was moved to Burmah. My sister and
her husband were there for somewhere about three years, I think, and then they came home
back to England in 1905. While they were in Burmah, they were moved about quite a lot to
various places there.
Meanwhile, my sister Florence had come to Canada with a conducted party of young
women. She came to British Columbia to work for an Englishman married to a French Canadian
wife. She was with them a year or so and liked them and they liked her. But she was not
physically strong enough to do what they needed. So she left them and after a while came back to
England to get married. The man she came back to mary was Arthur John Hawker. His father and
my father had been fellow workers in Belgaum for very many years and the Hawker girls and we
had been at the same boarding school in Kent, England for many years. After her marriage,
Florence lived in London. Arthur Hawker was working in one of the London firms in “The City”
as the big central part of London is spoken of and they lived in one of the suburbs known as
“Hounsey” North London. After a while, arthur Hawker began thinking he was tired of big city
life, and some friends of his had come to Winnipeg and were urging him to come out here. So, a
good deal against the wishes of my sister they came to Canada in the summer of 1904. But they
did not stay there long. Someway or other they heard of Nelson, B.C. And came here and in Nelson
their only child, a girl, Kathleen, was born Oct. 28, 1905.
In the spring of 1905, Thom Keith’s Regiment came back to England. I was in England
then, having come home from the Punjab in the spring of 1904 on my first furlough. So I was
there to see Florence go away to Canada in 1904, and see emily come back to England in 1905. In
the fall of 1905, I went back to my work in the Punjab, and in the spring of 1906 my father
and mother finally left India. My father was retired from the London Missionary Society.
Now I must go back and tell you about May. A year or so after leaving college at
Aberystwith, she went to Elberfeld, Germany, in the river Rhine country. She was there for
four years. She worked in a firm that did a big business in cards and calendars, etc. . . .and some
of their business was with the U.S.A., and no doubt with Britain, too. They had very long hours
there, but she lived with nice people, and the Rhine country is beautiful and she sometimes got a
trip in the woods on the Rhine. May had come home from Germany when my father retired and
she was working for a time with the methodist Church in a mission they carried on in a part of
London called “The Bermondsey Settlement.” So she was right on the spot. There was nothing
much to keep them in England, so the five of them, my father and mother, May and Emily and her
husband, Tom Keith, all came to Canada together arriving here in Nelson in September. After a
time, Arthur Hawker was taken on by the “Canadian Express Co.” and was transferred to
Vancouver, B.C. and he lived there the rest of his life, working for the company until he retired.
Now, you say you want to know something about me, and why I studied medicine and went
to India. It came about this way. When I was about 22 or 23--my father and mother had gone
back to India, and I was in England not knowing quite what to do. I had tried teaching and did not
care for it. Just about that time there was a lot of talk about the need for women doctors in India.
My father wrote and asked if I would like to study medicine. I wrote back and said I would if the
money could be found. He said he could allow me L6 a month for living expenses.
One of the girls who had been at school with me had been studying medicine in Edinburgh,
Scotland. Her home had been there and through her I got some information. At that time,
Edinburgh University would not admit women to their classes, etc. But a pioneer woman medical
had established a school for women to study medicine in Edinburgh and I went there. When I left
the boarding school I passed the Oxford and Cambridge certificate. But that didn’t go for the
medical work. I had to go in a do a little bit more extra. I had to take a certain amount of Latin
and physics. So I went to Aunt Annie’s school and studied with a tutor. I was 24 before I started
After I had been in Edinburgh a while, edinburgh University consented to letting women
take their examinations--but I was not in a position to start all over again, study for the
Edinburgh University degree, and before I could even start medicine, take their preliminary
examination. The medical course I took was in order to qualify for what is known as the “College
of Physicians and Surgeons of Edinburgh and Glasgow.” My living expenses, board, food, clothes,
travelling expenses, notebooks, in fact everything except examination fees, had to come out of
L6 a month and I spent the summer holidays at Wretchwick and did not pay anything there for
my board, but there was the journey from and back to Scotland each year. So I had to be careful.
You can just think how the value of money has lessened since those days. L5 now is about 11 or
12 dollars!!! I started medicine in September or October 1891 and took the final examination
I had to go two miles down from Edinburgh to the town of Leith. Leith was the port of
Edinburgh. And at Leith hospital the doctors lectured to us and gave us clinical work. So my
beginning medicine I took down at Leith hospital. And before I left Edinburgh, the big Edinburgh
Royal Infirmary let us in. For women, they had one medical ward, and one surgical word. That
didn’t give us enough beds so the third ward was half surgical--half medical. We had a special
doctor to teach us in the medical ward and a special doctor in the surgical ward. Both the doctors
we had were real good men. They wouldn’t have us in with the men students.
First of all, we had a course in making up drugs and that. In those days, there weren’t so
many made up and ready to buy. We had to make up more. Then we had regular lessons in the
classroom from surgeons and physicians. Then we had regular tutorial lessons in the wards
from the doctors and surgeons. When we wee in the surgical side we used to go and see the
operations done. And we had to go to the hospital every morning to the lectures. Then we had to go
around and see the patients and have their conditions described to us. The doctor would, perhaps,
ask us questions. Or we’d see how they did dressings, or see how they’d put up a fracture. When
we were on the medical side, we’d do the same. Go around the wards and have the different
patients shown to us and listen to their hearts and lungs, and examine their skins if they had any
skin trouble. Some of our patients were men. I think our surgical ward was a man’s ward. I
studied there four years. I passed my exams, you know. I’m on the Medical Register. Every year
I get a notice from them to see if I’m alive and kicking. I keep my name on just for the fun of the
thing. I’m on the British Medical Register still although I’ve been away for thirty-two years.
About that time, the Women’s Association of the Church of Scotland was looking out for a
doctor for a medical mission that had been started by them at a place in the north of the Punjab,
and as I was wanting work, I applied and was accepted by them. I went as an agent of the
Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Two of my fellow missionaries were Anglican. So you see the
Church of Scotland was quite broadminded in the people they took. They took me thought I was a
Congregationalist and they took two others though they were Anglican and we were just as happy
as could be together. [Ed. note: Remember that Annie’s father had also been a Congregationalist
but had worked for a Roman Catholic Missionary Society.]
Before going to India, I had a short time job in Liverpool and for a short time I also was
in Dublin, Ireland, taking extra classes and practice in midwifery at a very well known hospital
for women there known as The Rotunda. In the autumn, I sailed from Liverpool for Bombay and
went to see my father and mother who were then in Belgaum. Then after a short visit to them, I
went away up far north. The Church of Scotland had six stations there called by names of the
chief towns, Gujrat (on the main line between Lahore and Peshawar), Wazirabad (a railway
junction), Sailkot which was in those days a British Military Station, Jalalpur Jattan which
then was a small country place nine miles from Gujrat, where now the Church of Scotland has a
really big hospital, Daska where there is a big boarding school for boys about 10 miles or so
from Sailkot--and two other places which since India was partitioned are now in India while the
other places I have mentioned are in Pakistan. The two places now in India are Jamnu which is a
native state and Chamba which is right in the mountains--and is also a small native state.
Because of difficulties due to the separation between India and Pakistan, these two Hill stations
are now under the care of an American Mission, as this mission has stations also in India.
When I first went to Gujrat in the Punjab, medical work had been started for women by a
woman doctor who had worked for some time for the Church of Scotland in a big place in South
India called Poona. Her furlough was due soon after my going there (to Gujrat), this woman
doctor left to go on furlough and did not come back to the mission because she got married to a
Civil Surgeon who worked for the government. At that time in Gujrat, we women had no proper
hospital. We rented a house in the city and did the best we could with it. I went there daily, but I
lived with the other missionaries in the house a mile or so away, out of town, where the
Europeans, if there were any more, and the missionaries lived. The British Government had
some officials there--generally there was a “Deputy Commissioner.” He was the head of the
district, and generally a Civil Surgeon, and perhaps two or three others, more or less in
number from time to time, according to what might be going on. Some while after I went there,
there began to be talk about building a hospital for women, by the mission. There were two
wealthy women living in Montreal, Canada and they wished to build a hospital in Gujrat in
memory of their mother. In those long ago days, there was a Presbyterian Church in Montreal
which was affiliated with the Church of Scotland and the minister of this church always came
from Scotland. These two women’s parents had come out from Scotland, Their father had died
when young and had left four daughters. The father of these girls and a brother who was
younger--but who made a lot of money in those early days. He had never married and left a lot of
money to his brother’s four daughters. Two of them had married--but two had not done so. The
two unmarried ones first gave money to build a church for our Indian Congregation in memory
of their uncle. Next thing was for us to look for a site for the proposed hospital. One of our men
missionaries was put in charge of getting plans drawn and the hospital being built. The two dear
ladies in Canada began to get impatient to hear that their hospital was up and all ready to begin
work. But they did not realize that things take time. First plans--then bricks to build with. In
or near Gujrat there is good clay for bricks. So the bricks for the new hospital were made and
burned locally. We did get some marble from Calcutta to floor the operation room. Finally the
hospital was finished and by then another young woman doctor had come out from Scotland and
she and I left the women’s mission house and went to live in the hospital. It was built on a main
road coming from the railway station to the town, diagonally across from us was the Civil
Hospital and right across the street from us was the Gurat jail!!! We had two big long wards,
some smaller rooms and an operating room, and we two doctors lived above and our Indian
nurses had their own quarters. But that is long ago and I have been told that the whole place has
been very much altered since my day.